More guns, more options, more Jensen...
As you might have seen this week, developer Square Enix released a stunning announcement trailer for their upcoming sequel to the 2011 stealth-shooter masterpiece, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The trailer is what we might imagine; protagonist Adam Jensen powering through some cyber punk terrorists in a gorgeous dystopian city environment, armed with more tech than you can win at the end of The Gadget Show.
Here the trailer is again if you didn’t catch it (and yes, this is partly just an excuse for me to watch it for the seventh time):[yt_video id=”uvSs5b6y-YM”][/yt_video]
For me at least, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was perhaps one of the best games of the last generation; bar some fatal missteps here and there, the title’s superb blending of gripping stealth moments and an expansive character upgrade system made for some of the most varied, immersive gaming experiences to be had on the old consoles. The game itself was largely a solid work of art, without even beginning to consider the compelling characterisation, thought-provoking story, and positively eye-watering Blade Runner meets renaissance design aesthetic. The thing is, Human Revolution’s few flaws were hard to forgive, and prevented an awesome game from becoming a classic.
With all this in mind, here are 5 things I want to see in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to make sure it doesn’t get held back in the same way.
1. Balanced Boss Fights
Critics and users alike agreed that Human Revolution’s biggest flaw was its boss fights; not only were they largely uninspiring, they simply didn’t fit into the games focus on a stealthier style of play. On paper, the three mercenaries that make up the game’s primary antagonists, Lawrence, Yelena and Jaron, seemed to provide substance for widely varying boss encounters that would each be unique and memorable in their own way. In reality, however, all these showdowns really did was funnel players who had been used to a plethora of options down a single path, making for encounters that weren’t only frustrating, but also a little mundane.
The game’s Director’s Cut edition went some way to fixing this problem, providing a complete overhaul of the boss encounters to afford players a little more choice regarding how to tackle them; this boiled down to incorporating more of Human Revolution’s hugely popular stealth gameplay into the pot. Given this amendment to the original game, we can probably rest assured that boss fights won’t be such a slog in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided; the announcement trailer has already introduced us to two rather interesting looking individuals, whose convincing characterisation hopefully won’t be undermined by sub-par confrontations.
2. Gadgets, Gadgets, Gadgets
All cards on the table, the tech featured in Human Revolution was not only jaw-droppingly designed, but also went a long way to qualifying the game’s focus on choice and options when it came to gameplay. Through the myriad of options available, Square Enix developed a competent upgrade system that complimented the more mainstream elements of a cover-based shooter. The allure of the explosive Typhoon system, or a double stealth takedown (if only for the animations alone) was enough for players to buy into the more RPG like elements of the title.
That being said, Jensen’s arsenal in comparison felt a little underdeveloped, which is where I’d like to see some expansion in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The original title’s range of weapons, including your standard sniper, pistol, assault rifle and so on, were by no means lacking, but felt a little underwhelming given the scope of the game’s technology. I’d like to see more experimental weaponry to compliment the gadgets Jensen himself has up (or in) his sleeves. If the leaked screenshots are anything to go by, Mankind Divided should also benefit from what looks to be a more dynamic weapon attachment system, which will again hopefully give the player further options.
3. Playing Fair
Aside from its dry boss fights, Human Revolution’s other fatal flaw was that it inherently favoured a stealth-based playthrough, which opened it up to criticism in a number of areas. The game rewarded players for taking the quiet approach, awarding top marks (and upgrade points) to those who completed levels with no alerts and deaths. Fair enough – right? The paradox is, however, that (aside from a few stealth focused upgrades) the game basically rewarded you with more ways to kill people. As I reached the last third of Human Revolution, I found myself amassing banks of skill points that simply had no relevance to the path I’d taken. Conversely, those opting for a combat heavy playthrough are to some extent punished for sampling all the game has to offer in terms of weaponry and offensive gadgets.
In order to succeed in a game that markets itself on choice, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has to tackle this integral conundrum. Whilst there’s no denying that choosing the combat approach is probably easier, players who opt for that style of play shouldn’t be unduly punished, and still have an equal chance at Jensen’s top-level upgrades. Similarly, Square Enix needs to expand the amount of upgrades available to those opting for a non-lethal approach, ensuring that character development still has some appeal even in the latter stages of the game.
4. More Jensen
For those of you who rolled the credits on Human Revolution (and if you haven’t, spoilers to follow) you’ll know that depending on what path you chose, Jensen’s fate wasn’t exactly looking rosy at the game’s climax. Whilst I’m not going to go into too much detail here, let’s just say I’m happy to see him reintroduced as the protagonist for the sequel.
Not only does Jensen manage to brilliantly pull off the gruff, cigarette smoking hard-ass without managing to become a spoof (otherwise only managed by our beloved Solid Snake) he’s also an incredibly balanced protagonist. At multiple junctures throughout Human Revolution, some pretty weighty decisions, from swearing at your boss to killing a man, fall on your shoulders, forcing the players to make some challenging moral calls here and there. The thing is, I always felt that, owing to Jensen’s thoughtful character development, it’s equally believable that he would make both calls. You can see that Jensen’s identity crisis extends well beyond his physical body; he constantly struggles with his humanity and innate desire for vengeance, a plot dynamic I’m interested to see explored further in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
5. More Cyberpunk Renaissance
Apart from allowing for both unique and beautiful environments and character models, Human Revolution’s seamless blending of visual cues from both cyberpunk and renaissance culture fed into the game on a deep thematic level. The word “renaissance,” when translated, literally means rebirth, a central theme that consistently permeates Deus Ex; we see Adam reborn as an ‘Aug’, but we also see mankind very much placed in a transitional phase between the present and the foreboding future. Given that the original game took so many cues, both visually and aesthetically, from the renaissance on so many levels, it only seems fitting that we should see more of it in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.[yt_video id=”pcJ98o1IhT8″][/yt_video]
So there we have it, 5 steps that, in my opinion, should make for an awesome sequel. As is evident from this article, Human Revolution was an incredible game that unfortunately tripped up under its own scope. The game, however, really shone in certain areas, such as design and character development, which integrally must be retained to keep that inherent Deus Ex flavour that fans have come to know and love. Whatever the outcome, I for one am dangerously excited about what Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has to offer! And if it doesn’t live up to the legend? Well, we still have that eye-popping trailer to drool over…